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Zambians React to Having White Interim Leader After Sata's Death

  • Mariama Diallo

The body of Zambian president Michael Sata is back in his home country, after being flown in from London where he passed away last week.

The country's interim president is a white man, born in Zambia when it was still a British colony.

Thousands of Zambians formed lines to pay tribute and mourn the death of Sata, who will be buried on November 11.

His work and passion for the country was demonstrated while he was in office, said Palan Mulonda, Zambia's ambassador to the United States.

"In the last three years Zambia has seen unprecedented development and what is interesting was that President Sata was a leader who associated himself with the under-privileged,” Mulonda said.

This is not the first time that Zambia has lost a sitting president. In 2008, President Levy Mwanawasa died in office at the age of 59.

What's new is that the late president's interim successor is a white Zambian. Former Vice President Guy Scott is the son of Scottish parents who immigrated to Zambia.

In public addresses, Scott hasn't brought attention to his skin color.

“As acting president for 90 days or less, hopefully if we move ahead with the elections, my legacy will be a peaceful election and a smooth transition,” Scott said.

Zambians interviewed on the street seem to have mixed opinions about having Africa's first white head of state in 20 years.

"Mr. Guy Scott is qualified to do that job because they wouldn't have chosen him to become vice president if he was not qualified to do that,” said Nosizi Ndhlovu.

But Robin Mulyako countered: "It’s not right, 50 years after independence I think we are supposed to have our own indigenous person acting in that position.”

Kenneth Mwenda, a professor of law at American University and a Zambian native, thinks Scott's position is appropriate.

"Guy Scott is a great guy to start with. He was born in Zambia, in Livingston, the city where I was born. Believe me Guy Scott has been in Zambia more than I have. Although my parents are indigenous Zambians, I cannot claim legitimacy to being more Zambian than Guy Scott," Mwenda said.

Plus, Scott is a key person in Michael Sata’s political party.

"They built the Patriotic Front from scratch with Michael Sata. So this is somebody who's been there on the ground. There's absolutely no doubt whatsoever regarding his loyalty to the country. He's a Zambian 100 percent," Mwenda continued.

The 70-year-old Scott, a Cambridge-educated economist, is ineligible to run for president in the upcoming elections because his parents were not born in Zambia.

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